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An Introduction to SAP BW/4 HANA

A brief recap

In the first blog in this series, I discussed the challenges faced by SAP customers with respects to the technical debt built up over many years to deliver operational reporting and some form of data warehousing. I introduced SAP BW/4 HANA as a modern data platform to support the nexus of forces faced by business executives and functional managers, which enables a business to provide effective responses to these challenges.

A great amount has been written about the technical aspects of SAP HANA and how columnar stores and in memory processing etc. all provide efficient data processing so I am not going to focus on this. What we are going to cover in this series is the capabilities found within SAP BW/4 HANA and how they can provide effective business responses to operational, tactical and strategic challenges faced by businesses in today’s digital world.

Improving Time-To-Value for Data Warehousing

SAP BW/4 HANA includes a preconfigured set of application specific data models for selected business areas and industries. It does this in a simpler fashion than the traditional SAP BW architecture due to the technology improvements made by SAP as part of the underlying HANA platform. This Business Content enables quick and cost-effective implementation providing a model that can be used as a guideline during implementation avoiding a great deal of bespoke development. The model can:

  • Be deployed without any configuration;
  • Be configured or enhanced by the customer; and
  • Serve as a template to help customers create their own data models.

SAP are continually delivering business content to enable organisations deploy solutions rapidly and some of the subject areas in the roadmap are shown below.

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Figure 1 – SAP BW Business Content Roadmap – For up to date status see the SAP content add-on Web URL

For any SAP ERP customer without a data warehouse, now is the time to consider deployment of this new capability because of the more simplified architecture and overall solution. In essence, the business content enables rapid deployment and delivery of data so a business can focus on generating insight through their business intelligence (BI) technologies.

Business Questions requiring modern responses

Throughout my career working with data and analytics I have noticed step changes occur in technology providers and industry thinking which enable responses to business challenges in new ways. Up until recently, this has always resulted in “best of breed” philosophies that increase data movement, increase data silos and carry a high cost of ownership across many technologies delivering insight.

However, with SAP BW/4 HANA, a business can now get answers to questions using a simplified technology landscape which reduces IT total cost of ownership. The following examples demonstrate some of the capabilities available.

Spatial Servicesdm2

Spatial services within SAP HANA enable standard operational and business intelligence data to be combined with geospatial data such as mapping layers, latitude and longitude to perform rich analysis in real-time or as part of general business analysis. Typical examples of how enterprises can benefit from geospatial analysis are:

  • Viewing real-time movements of “things of interest” such as a vehicles, containers, parcels and re-route them based upon traffic and other supply chain conditions;
  • Modelling linear and fixed assets to provide a business model of assets enabling a wide range of services in support of asset maintenance, store/customer positioning, crime analysis, distance calculation and more;
  • Segmenting customers by geographical locations to support marketing campaigns and demographic analysis;
  • Overlaying weather pattern data against insured assets such as buildings to improve risk analysis; and
  • Identifying the number of accidents, insurance claims or crimes by geospatial location improving the understanding of risk
Text Servicesdm3

For years now, people have discussed getting value from unstructured data. SAP HANA Text services enable a business to go beyond analysing transactions, the “what?” question and start asking the “why?” question. For example, a customer has cancelled their contract following a call with a CRM operator. Why was it cancelled?

Analysing notes taken by the operator at the time enables a business to ascertain information about what happened during the customer interaction and look at preventative measures and follow-up with the customer.

In addition, information derived can be used to augment their data warehouse/BI investments e.g. analysing the churn by reasons derived from within the CRM call information held in a large text field.

The examples above use IT techniques to establish “The Voice of the Customer” (VOC), which captures expectations, preferences and other forms of sentiment expressed. The principles of the VOC then enable a business to improve the products and services it provides.

Graph Services dm4

Business users in industries such as logistics, transportation and utilities often desire to analyse networks or link data and these principles are being applied in many generic use cases for areas such as Social Media e.g. Understanding customer influence as part of the VOC or establishing networks of Fraud/Tax evasion (issue a google search on  PANAMA PAPERS). Companies like Law firms also use such techniques to link associated documents in support of case management and eDiscovery.

In essence, we can use graph analysis to understand more about entities like customers, residents, criminals, associates, claimant and location by connecting PEOPLE, OBJECTS, LOCATIONS and EVENTS to build up a clearer picture of their inter-relationships.

Bringing Services Together

Whether you are upgrading your existing SAP BW landscape (see BW/4 Upgrade) or considering deployment of a new modern data platform using SAP BW/4, it is hard for a business to miss the possible benefits derived from these types of analysis. Simplification of the IT landscape, and delivering reduced TCO is achieved through combining multiple data repositories, warehouses and analytical platforms into one.

However, to conclude this blog, let us describe an example, which brings together all facets of what I have discussed within the insurance industry via a real use case.

The Scenario

An Insurance company has formed a hypothesis that degrees of criminality are occurring which are fraudulent with respects to car accidents. Using advanced analytical techniques like those described above the insurer modelled their data to:

  • Add geospatial analysis to view locations of the PEOPLE involved and the EVENT i.e. the defendant, the claimant, the solicitor and other parties;
  • Create a graph network of PEOPLE, OBJECTS, LOCATIONS and EVENTS to identify inter-relationships relating to claims; and
  • Enabled text mining to understand the sentiment within the claim and correspondence along with extracting additional entities of information
The Insight Gained

By augmenting traditional business intelligence techniques with geospatial, graph and text analysis, the insurer gained insight into collusive behaviour and fraud. In the first instance, the geospatial analysis provided insight into the proximity between the solicitor and people injured because of an accident. It also provided a view on repeated locations where accidents were occurring which had no CCTV surveillance suggesting accidents were being engineered.

In the second instance, the graph analysis enabled the PEOPLE in particular, to be linked alongside the EVENT (accident) and the LOCATION to identify influencers within the network of people. In this case, it was a particular solicitor within a firm.

Finally, the text mining enabled the insurer to review the claim details and extract key elements such as natures of injury e.g. whiplash and other information relating to the claim.

All this built up a picture that enabled to insurer to realise there was a linked network of people committing fraudulent claims with respects to whiplash injuries and information was passed to the police.

In Conclusion

The SAP BW/4 HANA modern data platform provides a rich data and analytics capability that deliver benefits to any organisation irrespective of whether they have SAP Applications. A more simplified data and analytics environment reduces TCO whilst enabling an organisation to analyse a wide range of data with minimal data movement.

In the next blogs we will explore the SAP HANA services in more detail accompanied by a Webex demonstrating such capabilities.

If this article has been of interest then feel free to contact me to discuss how your organisation could benefit from a modern data platform.



Posted by: David Milburn, Business Development Manager, BIG DATA & Analytics NTT DATA Business Solutions UK


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